Natural Yogurt Band exclusive Louder Than War interview
Deep in the core of any cool kid’s heart from the late 70’s/early 80’s was a love for all things niche. Supermarket soundtracks, TV crime soundtracks and moustaches. With a touch of this genius we have Natural Yogurt Band, who haven’t soured yet but keep on getting creamier by the record. At the heart of the band is Miles Newbold, instrumentalist extraordinaire and lyrical Mixmaster with the bands releases appearing on Jazzman Records. The band’s latest release is set to his the supermarket shelves soon on BMM Records, before its expiry date. Matt Mead caught up with Mr Newbold and his partner in yoghurt pots, Neil Tolliday.
LTW: Hello! Can you please tell us a bit about your upbringing, your first memories and the first music that you remember listening to?
MILES – Hello. Yes, well music was always around in the houses we grew up in. My Mum and Dad with their jazz, folk and rock records. But later on I remember buying Beats breaks and scratches records after school, which had drum breaks and samples on to use. Some of those drum breaks really did something to me – I think it was the soulfulness and funkiness of them, it got right into my bones – and later on I started acquiring these records in their original entirety and remember thinking hold on this is that break I was listening to when I was a kid. Early electro and hip hop, especially the Electro compilations had a massive effect on me too. I mean, who doesn’t love an 808 and a vocoder, come on!
Growing up what was the first, some might say, serious music you remember listening to?
I remember a lot of New Orleans jazz, as well as musicians like Miles, Dizzy, M.J.Q. and other cool jazz from and around that era, as well as Black Sabbath and Bob Dylan. I also payed close attention to TV shows like The Two Ronnies, Ironside, The Muppets, Colombo, Knight Rider etc, it all went in and hung around until later on in life. I remember recording Star Wars onto cassette tape from the telly and constantly listening to it on my Walkman, as well as hiding behind the curtains in the lounge secretly watching Jaws and marveling at the music and how well it fitted with the film.
Why did you take up playing an instrument? What instrument was this? Can you play a fair few instruments now?
My brother had drum machines, some of them he made himself from kits and I found them fascinating. I then got a Yamaha DD10 drum machine and a Yamaha PSS 470 and I was blown away! That was it…it was time to make music, so I combined my amateur keyboard skills with my poor scratching technique and my Beats breaks and scratches records and a bit of awful beat boxing and I was away, lost in the land of music. At school I was not interested in music because it was mainly all theory, but as soon as we got 4-track cassette tape recorders it was a whole different ball game, as I could now overdub and be a complete band in one. I quickly learned about bouncing the tracks down to create even more tracks, as well as manipulating tape speeds, flanging, splicing and reversing etc. I’m sure these early experiences led me to owning my recording studio, where I played and recorded with some very experienced and influential people along the way, which taught me a lot about how to listen as well as play with other people in a band, group or even in orchestral situations.
As I mainly work in music for synchronisation with telly, adverts, festivals, publishers and production catalogues like Sony Extreme and Felt etc, it is usually a short time frame until completion, so I’ve had to adapt and play more instruments as I don’t have the time to wait for the string quartet to be available next week, or my favourite drummer that can only make it a week on Tuesday between 6 and 7 o’clock. I don’t class myself as a musician. I wish I was, but to me a musician is much more than I am. I am a cobbler, I cobble sounds and textures together and make odd shapes that don’t quite fit in the right holes.
Tell me about recording and playing with Little Barrie?
I’ve known Barrie for a long time starting when we were at sixth form college together, and we just used to talk about guitars in class. As I had a basic recording set up and he did not and he wanted to record, it seemed logical for me to record his first 45’s. I got to play on them as well which was great for me as I was studying jazz at the time and could try out my chops on the organ, albeit very basic chops, but they worked well with his great guitar style and sound. We did the first few gigs which were fun, trying to play the Wurlitzer through an electric heater – well it looked like one anyway – as well as recording at my studio a couple of years ago. Barrie taught me a lot about call and response, so he would call on guitar and I would respond on organ or electric piano. Sometimes I would go over to his and we would twang around on guitars for hours.
Can you tell us abit of the NYB history? Who have you played with in the band? What is the bands record output history?
I saw Wayne Fullwood (ex-Little Barrie drummer) at a gig and I hadn’t seen him since we both played with Little Barrie when he played drums and I played keyboards – Wurlitzer electric piano mainly. We had a catch up and I said how about making an album for fun, and he was really up for it so we got in my studio and bashed out some ideas very quickly and I recorded it. It was as simple and as quick as that, no messing or fussing just get on with it and have fun. We were like a couple of monkeys in the studio, screaming and dancing and making noises, it was great. When we finished the album a week or so later we listened to it and thought why don’t we try and get it released, so we sent it to Jazzman Gerald of Jazzman records and he rang me and loved it. He thought it was mainly samples but there were no samples at all. It was released in 2008. From then on, there was another couple of albums and various 45’s as well. Then Jazzman released my Sign of Four album, Hammer, Anvil and Stirrup.
How do you approach song writing? Do you jam things out alone or with a band?
There is no set pattern with me. It can start from the most basic of ideas which more often than not is the sound itself rather than a melody or harmony. Sometimes I may start with a rhythm and that will shape what happens next. Then sometimes the opposite happens, The whole score comes into my head piece by piece like its being piped and filtered into my brain.
Most of the music I make is on my own apart from the new NYB album that’s on its way, as that has Neil giving it some “what for” on drums. I would like to work more with other people but that’s just how its turned out. Time is often limited with composing for clients so I can’t wait around and other people are also busy as well. I wish I had a cupboard I could just open with loads of great session musicians in there to help out when I needed!
You’re soon to release a new album. How did this come about? Who have you got playing on the record?
Yes. After the success of the last NYB 45, The 13 Moons of Neptune and Satelites that BMM put out in November, we are releasing a 4-track EP called Spectral Flux. Then, shortly after that, an album called Braille-Slate and Stylus.
It is me on various instrumentation and gadgets as well as site foreman and frequency and pulse analyser for the recording process; Mr snap crackle and pop himself Doctor Neil Tolliday on drums and some bass guitar, [as well as being the master of beautiful and simple harmonies on the Mellotron, he can shake your shoes when he’s on the drums too, believe me! ]; and we have Lady Catherine Bellhouse on cello, viola, violin and free smiles and giggles all day long.
What’s been the most enjoyable piece of work you’ve worked on? Either on the new record or anything else you’ve worked?
Oh that’s a tough one. Well with the new album it would be writing the strings score for Flying South [Jo’s theme] or possibly writing for Sony Extreme’s library, or Silicon Valley in the US through Hit The Ground Running [HTGR], but then again I love just playing with Neil. It’s fun!
Who are your current musical influences? Any particular records you’re listening to at present?
You know what, I’m very out of touch with music, particularly modern stuff, but I do hear elements that I like in modern music- for example, it could be the recording production that I like or the sound of the bass. I still have a vast quantity of jazz, funk, soul, electronic and library music records that I still love listening too and still have a penchant for early electronic music and library music, especially Italian and French.
Finally. Which flavour Yogurt is your stand out favourite?
I only like natural yogurt, ha ha.
Interview with Neil
LTW: What was the very first music you remember listening to?
Neil: Probably something from a kids TV programme in the mid-70s – the theme to Mr.Men, Bagpuss or Ivor The Engine. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly. The theme to Picture Box used to freak me out.
When did you first start playing an instrument?
My Mum used to clean the local churches in Beeston, Nottingham when I was little. I’d have to go along with her during the holidays, but there was a piano in every room, so while she cleaned I used to plink plonk about..
Are you a multi-instrumentalist?
Jack of most trades, master of none!
How did you first get to know Miles?
Through friends from Beeston, Danny “Lord” Roberts in particular.. I keep meaning to ask if Miles was a skater or not. More of a water boatman..
When did you first play on NYB songs?
Last year. It started off with Danny getting me over to Miles’ so the three of us could have a jam, then Miles asked me if I’d like to play drums on a few things he was working on. At that point I didn’t know whether it was NYB or not, but either way I was really stoked, as I know what a talented guy he is, so was really blown away he wanted me to play.
How have the songs come together in the studio? Did Miles already have the idea for the songs and you jammed them out?
He pretty much had everything written, which is what I expected, so I played a few beats and he said ‘ooh yay’ or ‘maybe another way’.. There was room for a bit of manoeuvring, but I just wanted to do my best and hope it worked with his vision.
What do you like most about working with Miles?
Well, first of all it’s great to work with someone who knows their stuff, whether it be playing or knowledge of music and influences. He’s very focused and driven, which is something I admire. It’s fun as well, which is important, we do laugh a lot.. but it’s still y’know, serious. Sort of. He also wears excellent shirts.
Do you have any plans for further music in the future?
Well, we are currently chipping away at some music we’re writing together that’s mainly based around my Mellotron, which is proving to be very inspiring for coming up with melodies etc. The music itself kinda sounds like a cross between 70s kids drama, public information & safety videos, old wildlife programmes, hammer horror and spaghetti westerns.
All words by Matt Mead. You can find further articles by Matt via the Louder Than War author archives pages.